Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spa Day

I have a tradition - when I ship a product, I take a day off work and spend it at an amazing local spa, Olympus Spa.  Olympus is different from any other spa I've been to - it's a Korean women's spa where they offer a variety of traditional Korean treatments as well as the more traditional spa services.  There is a large communal pool area, with a variety of temperature soaking pools where clothing is prohibited.  I spend at least the first 20 minutes giggling to myself and thinking "SHE'S NAKED!" before that becomes a part of the experience that I don't notice.

For this product ship, I booked a massage, full body scrub, and a moisturizing treatment.  It's been a pretty wet and cold winter in Seattle, and I was really looking forward to a day of being warm and relaxed.  My Mother in Law was scheduled to arrive Friday evening, and I had a long weekend of playing host ahead of me.

I arrived feeling pretty shitty.  BabyBoy was home sick with pink eye, a PENIS INFECTION and an ear infection and I was feeling like a selfish, bad mom for leaving him.  It took me a while in the massage to start to relax and feel like I was really there for ME.  One of the things I've found incredibly effective during a day at Olympus is that I assign the stresses that have built up, the demons that haunt me, and the people that have pissed me off to different parts of my body.  I also give the good things, the things that I want to nourish body parts, and as I move through different treatments, I give myself permission to let go and I also choose what I'm going to hold close to hold me over until the next time.

First up was the massage.  It was a perfectly nice, not long enough massage.  I think she could have devoted the whole hour to my neck muscles and the tension in my jaw, no one part of my body felt like it got enough work, but it was a good start to the day.  After the massage, I grabbed my phone to check in on BabyBoy, and I went into the Mud/Jade energy room.  They have 7 different far-infrared heated (or cooled) rooms, each based on a different earth element, and each with different properties.  The Mud/Jade room is heated to 170 degrees, and the floor and walls contain dry mud, jade, rose quartz, aventurine, aquamarine and germanium, which are though to promote blood circulation and release the toxins that are located within the body.  It's the hottest room there, and after 11 minutes I felt like I was actually WARM for the first time in months.   Afterwards I jumped into the Evlan stone reading room to flip through a magazine for a few minutes before I went into the cafe for lunch.

I made a critical error in ordering the yakisoba for lunch, it had a lot of broccoli in it, which is a proven cause of massive flatulance for me.  It was tasty, and I didn't even give the fart potential a thought when I ordered it, regret came later.  They also made me a lovely hot tea, which was simply hot water, honey and ginger pieces.  I read for a bit, and enjoyed my lunch before heading into the pools for the naked portion of the day.  I made one last text check-in with Hubby, BabyBoy was sound asleep for his nap and doing fine, and I finally let go of the voice inside that was calling me a selfish, bad Mommy and decided to enjoy the rest of the experience.

Photo from Olympus Spa Press Kit
Before a scrub, you have to soak for an hour, with at least the last 15 minutes of it being in a 104 degree pool.  I showered first and then poured some hot mugwort tea all over my body for the detoxification benefits before heading into the wet sauna.  Wet sauna, 104 degree pool, 60 degree plunge (OH GOD THAT'S COLD!), then into the 97 degree pool for more soaking before my scrub technician came looking for me to order me into the 104 degree pool for the last 15 minutes before we got started.  Her name was Sunny, and I was calling her "Sunny the sadistic scrub technician" in my head by the end of the afternoon.

During the soaking, I tried hard not to stare. It was busy for a weekday, and I am a bit voyeuristic by nature.  I've always loved watching people, making up stories for the lines on their faces, and watching how they move and interact with others.  Women of all shapes and sizes were there.  Tattoos, scars, mastectomies, beautiful young girls, "less than ideal" bodies (my own included) - it was a day where everything seemed to be represented.  I wondered about their own personal journeys and the roads that brought each of them there on that day.  I thought about my own marks and scars and I wondered if any of them were wondering about me as well.  It's always a treat to go to the spa with a friend, but I love the days there by myself, as well.  I like letting my mind wander without the pressure of conversation.  I watched small groups of naked woman, chatting around the mugwort trough like it was a table at a cocktail party.  I watched women that were there alone like me, relaxed with their heads tipped back and their eyes closed, and I let my mind go where it will.  I was safe, I was warm, and I was wrapped in the womb-like relaxation of the water.

In Gloria Steinem's first book, Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, she includes an essay, "In Praise of Women's Bodies," which describes a few days at an old-fashioned women's spa. "Gradually, skinny bikinis, queen-size slips, girdles and other paraphernalia begin to disappear from our bodies and our lockers, like camouflage in a war we no longer had to fight. Without those visual references, each individual woman's body demands to be accepted on its own terms. We stop being comparatives. We begin to be unique. I know that fat or thin, mature or not, our bodies wouldn't give us such unease if we learned their place in the rainbow spectrum of women. Even great beauties seem less distant, and even mastectomies seem less terrifying, when we stop imagining and try to see them as they really are."

Photo from Olympus Spa Press Kit
Sunny came for me.  We went into the scrub area, where I started out face down on a plastic covered table, head pillowed on a towel, and she asked if I had any skin sensitivities.  I told her that I have a fair number of moles/freckles and that the raised ones are sensitive, but otherwise, I was fair game.  She took me seriously and started in, armed with nothing more than scrubby mitts and some Dial soap.  As she started working, I thought about the different body parts and the failings they represented in my mind.  She worked to slough off the dead skin and I let those negative thoughts go down the drain with the dead skin.  She did two complete passes with me face down, then two complete passes on each side, and then two complete passes with me on my back.  By the second pass in each position, I was gritting my teeth at the line between "that hurts so good" and "OK, that HURTS." As she rinsed off the dead skin with hot hot water, it stung and smarted on the new skin.

Instead of focusing on the way things were hurting, I tried to focus on the voices in the water.  I could hear the murmur of people talking in the pools, I could hear the voices in the running water.  I could hear my mothers voice in there somewhere, the voice of my best friend, the voices of other wonderful supportive women in my life.  To me, it sounded encouraging and loving.  They were encouraging me to let go of the things that don't matter and to focus on the things that do.  My husband, my boy, the love that surrounds me if I would only let it sing.

On the final pass while on my back, I was also quite distracted by a mounting urge to fart.  Damned broccoli!  I cannot think of a worse possible location for this urge - I'm wet, laying on a plastic table in a tiled room.  There was no chance that I could pull it off without being noticed.  I lost my feeling of zen, I lost the voice of my mother, and my brain chanted "don't fart.  don't fart.  don't fart."  I'm sure I would be neither the first nor the last person have an ill-timed passing of the gas, but I didn't want to be that person on that day.

Sunny the Sadistic Scrub Technician turned me loose to use the restroom and instructed me to wait in the dry sauna until she came for me for the moisturizing treatment.  I trotted off as fast as my arthritic ankles would let me to the restroom to relieve my urge to flatulate, and then I went to the dry sauna, as instructed.

Sunny came for me, and we repeated the face down position for the moisturizing treatment.  For this part of the day, I focused on the positive.  I gave each area of my body a positive thought that I wanted to hold close to my skin, one that I wanted to lock in with each moisturizing .  Sunny started with my toes, working through to finger tips, first with warm olive oil, followed by warm milk, and finished with honey.  The final step on the back was scalding hot towels to take away the stickiness of the honey before I flipped over to my back to repeat the process on the front.

The front half included a mini-facial with olive oil based cream and ICE COLD mashed cucumber, which sat while the rest of the body got the same olive oil, milk and honey treatment as the back.  I continued with my affirmations, reinforcing my own positives and the support of friends and family while she worked.

At the end, I was clean.  Cleaner than most adults will ever be.  Before I had a baby, I would say I was clean as a newborn baby.  Now, I say I was as clean as a baby fresh from a bath after the last of the weird cheesy stuff from birth is gone, and the baby starts to plump up and turn pink.  Clean as, say, a one month old.  And I felt reborn and ready to tackle the next challenge.


  1. Wow, you make a spa sound like a spiritual retreat! I wish I didn't live across the country from this place. Also, they should pay you for this testimony. Well witnessed; well written, my friend!

    1. Thanks, Nerissa! There are SO many reasons I want you to come visit Seattle - if you find yourself here for album release/book tour, I promise I will take you to Olympus, time permitting!